Water Damage and Water Restoration
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No one expects to need water restoration services. It’s just not something we generally consider in the course of everyday life. However, all it takes is a frozen pipe that breaks, a backed up sewer, a water main cracking, a dishwasher hose springing a leak under the floor, a washing machine hose splitting while you’re at work, even the cat pushing the faucet on while you’re on vacation, and suddenly water restoration becomes a primary concern in your life.
There are many considerations for anyone who has water damage. The first thing a homeowner will want to do, whether or not they have insurance coverage for the type of damage they have suffered, is to begin loss mitigation procedures. Loss mitigation, as defined by most insurance policies, includes “reasonable and prudent measures designed to preserve, protect and secure property from further damage.”
Because wet building materials attract mold and similar growths, much that is done in the way of loss mitigation involves inhibiting the growth of microbes and the the speedy growth of microorganisms. Homeowners can take care of these procedures themselves, or they may hire a qualified contractor to take on this important step in the water restoration process.
Some homeowners are so concerned about leaving everything in place until the insurance adjustor arrives that they fail to take the steps necessary to prevent further damage. Often the damage that occurs after the original accident or natural disaster is not covered by insurance. Mold and deterioration of materials are generally not covered. Failure to take appropriate steps to mitigate losses may result in a lower insurance settlement.
There are actually three different categories of water recognized by the certified professionals who do water restoration, and it may help to know the lingo.
Category 1 Water is water that was clean when it left the source. This is water that would come from a broken pipe, a clean creek, or most rainwater. Category 1 water doesn’t present any kind of a hazard to humans. Mixing with other contaminants, time and high temperatures makes it worse, though
Category 2 Water is water that contained a degree of contamination when it entered the structure, and could cause sickness or discomfort in people who ingest it.
Category 3 Water is highly contaminated water that may cause death or severe illness if humans ingest it. Water in the Category 3 group includes nasty stuff like backed up sewers, flooding creeks and rivers, and ground surface water that floods your home.
If you have water in your home, the first thing you want to do is dry the place out as quickly as possible.
However, before you or a contractor enters the structure, be sure to consider the structural integrity of the building. Don’t enter the building if you’re not sure it is still standing firmly. Next look for good ventilation so you’re not harmed by mold or toxic fumes. Look for shock hazards; water and electricity are not good partners. Turn off the electricity to the flooded area of the home. The last thing to consider is your personal protection equipment such as steel-toed boots, splash goggles and possibly a respirator.
Use large towels to blot up the greatest amounts of excess moisture. Avoid leaving colored towels on the floor, since their color can leach into the carpet and may prevent you from preserving the carpet. Move all the furniture out of the room, since you will have to do so to complete the drying process, and you don’t want your furniture to pick up excess moisture.
Using fans and de-humidifiers is a great first step and the homeowner can take care of this himself; however, it’s likely not enough. Using your own shop vac or carpet cleaner is not recommended for any substantial water damage.
If you have a Category 1 water restoration problem, you may have fewer concerns, but they are still significant. Hiring a water restoration specialist is an excellent first step, since identifying the extent of water damage is a tricky procedure that requires know-how and proper equipment. Hiring a general contractor is not the best solution for water damage issues.
Water goes from wet areas to dry as much as possible, so simply looking at flooring is not adequate to determine the extent of the damage. The contractor needs to examine walls to see how far the water has wicked into the wallboard and studs. (S)he should also look underneath the floor, in the basement or crawlspace, to see where the water spread below the floor.
The contractor should provide you with a “water damage map” to show exactly where the damage is, and should give you, on a scale of 1 to 100, an idea of the moisture content of materials damaged by water and those not damaged. Qualified contractors have specialized equipment that will greatly speed the drying process, and know how to do a complete damage check in the home.
Loss mitigation is still a major concern, even with Category 1 water damage. Be sure to check carefully for any possible mold or microorganism growth or potential growth areas. Since speed is so important in the initial stages of cleanup, it is best to get the home or office dried out as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. This may require lots of work from you, or you may call a water restoration company quickly to do the immediate work.
After the initial drying is done, then you can take more time to carefully check out the credentials of the contractor more thoroughly. If you are not satisfied with his or her level of expertise and the references they give you, you can always switch to a more qualified performer at this stage of the cleanup. With that in mind, although some companies push for a complete contract, it’s better to contract for each portion of the job individually so you are left with the freedom to switch contractors if it becomes necessary.